The role of thyroid autoimmunity in fertility and pregnancy

Nat Clin Pract Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jul;4(7):394-405. doi: 10.1038/ncpendmet0846. Epub 2008 May 27.


The thyroid gland and gonadal axes interact continuously before and during pregnancy. Hypothyroidism influences ovarian function by decreasing levels of sex-hormone-binding globulin and increasing the secretion of prolactin. In women of reproductive age, hypothyroidism can be reversed by thyroxine therapy to improve fertility and avoid the need for use of assisted reproduction technologies. For infertile women, preparation for medically assisted pregnancy comprises controlled ovarian hyperstimulation that substantially increase circulating estrogen concentrations, which in turn can severely impair thyroid function. In women without thyroid autoimmunity these changes are transient, but in those with thyroid autoimmunity estrogen stimulation might lead to abnormal thyroid function throughout the remaining pregnancy period. Prevalence of thyroid autoimmunity is significantly higher among infertile women than among fertile women, especially among those whose infertility is caused by endometriosis or ovarian dysfunction. Presence of thyroid autoimmunity does not interfere with normal embryo implantation, but the risk of early miscarriage is substantially raised. Subclinical and overt forms of hypothyroidism are associated with increased risk of pregnancy-related morbidity, for which thyroxine therapy can be beneficial. Systematic screening for thyroid disorders in pregnant women remains controversial but might be advantageous in women at high risk, particularly infertile women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / immunology
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / prevention & control
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / blood
  • Infertility, Female / immunology*
  • Infertility, Female / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Thyroid Diseases / blood
  • Thyroid Diseases / immunology*
  • Thyroid Diseases / therapy
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / blood
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / immunology
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / therapy
  • Thyrotropin / blood
  • Thyroxine / blood
  • Triiodothyronine / blood


  • Triiodothyronine
  • Thyrotropin
  • Thyroxine